Long trips and vacations with kids can be difficult. Keeping a child occupied and calm during a trip requires patience and preparation. Keeping a child with autism occupied and calm during a trip may require some extra patience and planning.
This article is going to go over tips, tricks, and good general information on traveling with an autistic child. The two sections in this article will include information on road trips and air travel, as both have unique challenges.
Tips for Flying with a Child with Autism
Air travel is a big change for any child with autism. The sensory overload that accompanies every flight can be a huge challenge. The noise, the pressure, the small area, and the regimented process are all obstacles that a family will need to prepare for before a flight.
Before flying with an autistic child, you will want to consider taking the following actions:
- Prepare Weeks (or Months, if possible) Ahead. Talk with your child’s therapist or doctor about how to best start the process of preparing for a flight. Getting a plan together early on will help remind you about things you may need to prepare your child for.
- Create a Calendar. Having a visual indicator for your child to see indicating the upcoming trip can help them prepare for the change.
- Talk to Your Child About the Flight. Go over all the information about planes, airports, and travel you have planned with your child before the trip. Ask your child questions about the trip and make sure they have an understanding of the upcoming trip.
- Pack Essentials. Make sure to pack any of your child’s favorite toys, activities, and snacks before the flight. Remember that liquids over 3oz. cannot be brought through airport security!
- Pack Entertainment. Make sure your child has their favorite long-term toy or activity-packed. Focusing on something they love can make the long trip seem much shorter.
- If Your Child Has Special Needs: Talk to the Airline or Airport Before Your Flight. If your child needs special treatment or has other needs not normally provided or permitted by airlines, make sure to call them as early as possible! Airlines can be very accommodating, so make sure to talk to your airline about any and all of your child’s needs.
- Do a Practice Airport/Airline Security Run. Talk to your child’s therapist or pediatrician about the best ways to simulate an airport or airport security. Devise a plan and make sure your child is as prepared as they can before the real thing.
Road Trips & Autism
Taking a trip or going on a car vacation is much easier than flying for a child with autism. This doesn’t, however, mean it will be a walk in the park!
Leaving home and routine behind is difficult for children. Taking a child with autism out of an expected routine and schedule will take some preparation to mitigate emotions.
Just like with flying, there are some things you can do prior to a road trip to help ease the apprehensions of your child:
- Create a Calendar. Giving your child a visual indicator for when they will leave home can help them understand when the trip will start.
- Talk to Your Child & Communicate the Trip Plans. Creating an understandable narrative around where & why you are traveling can help your child understand what is happening. Ask them questions about the trip, answer their questions about the trip, and be sure to emphasize the things they will enjoy!
- Have Your Child Help Prepare for the Trip. Helping mom or dad is always fun, especially when it’s for something special. Having your child help you with packing or preparing the car for the road trip may be a great way to imbue an understanding of what to expect.
- Show Pictures of Hotels or Houses You’re Staying At. Make sure to familiarize your child with your destination and what they can expect when you get there. If you are staying with relatives, contacting them to prepare a room, followed by sending pictures of the prepared space, can make your child understand where they are staying is safe.
- Pack the Essentials. This is imperative for any road trip–a car has fewer accommodations than a plane, namely, there are no snacks & no bathrooms. Be sure to pack all of your child’s favorite toys and activities along with a cooler filled with favorite snacks & drinks.
- Schedule Gas Station/Rest Area Stops. Letting your child know when you will be stopping can help them understand the length of the trip. Creating a visual calendar of stopping times/points can help even more.
Make sure to make your car as comfortable as possible for any road trip. Bringing favorite comfy blankets or pillows can help your child feel more at home in the car.
ABA Therapy from IABA Consultants
If you have questions regarding autism treatment, education, or plans to use ABA therapy, we are here for you! Our goal is to make sure no family is turned away due to financial constraints. Our therapy team would love to talk to you. Find the location closest to you and give us a call. We’re here for you.